Pubdate: Wed, 18 Dec 2002
Source: Los Altos Town Crier (CA)
Copyright: 2002 The Town Crier Company Inc.
Author: Cynthia Marshall Schuman / Special to the Town Crier
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Local Temple Supports Drug's Therapeutic Use

Susan Gaskill had many of the things that her friends had: a husband, a 
son, activities at her temple. She also had something that they didn't 
have: AIDS.

She couldn't eat. Her weight dropped to 85 pounds, and her only nourishment 
came from a feeding tube inserted into her shoulder.

And then she tried pot. "When Proposition 215 was passed, she was able to 
go down to the club in San Jose and get her card and get marijuana. It 
enabled her to eat so that she could gain weight, take the medicine that 
she needed to take, and she got two more years of life before she passed 
away in May of 1999," her friend Jane Marcus said.

The rub? She was using the drug illegally. While California and several 
other states legally allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons, 
federal law -- which overrides the states' authority -- says otherwise.

To Gaskill's friends, this prohibition was a call to action. Even before 
Gaskill died, Beth Am Women, a group at Congregation Beth Am, the Los Altos 
Hills temple where she worshipped, had begun organizing to protest the 
federal decree.

"We had a panel at the synagogue in June 1998 and had a rabbi from Stanford 
speak and the chairman of the California Medical Association's task force 
on medical marijuana, a religious studies professor, and an assistant 
attorney general," Marcus said.

The outgrowth of that discussion group was a proposal to the umbrella 
organization of Beth Am's women's group, called Women of Reform Judaism. 
Beth Am Women presented a resolution -- first to a regional group, then to 
the larger group -- recommending that they endorse the use of marijuana for 
medical reasons.

"It was unanimous; wherever we presented the resolution, there was enormous 
support for it," Marcus said.

The impact of this resolution's adoption is that now, Women of Reform 
Judaism has a platform on which to address the topic. It gives them clear 
directions on how the organization would respond if asked a question about 
the issue.

"For example, there was an ad taken out in support of medical marijuana in, 
I think, The New York Times. When the Women of Reform Judaism were 
approached as to whether they would be signatories to this ad, all they had 
to do was look at our resolution and, so yes, they became signatories," 
Marcus said.

In 2001 the national group presented Beth Am Women with an award for 
special achievement on this project.

Indeed, public support for allowing the medicinal use of marijuana appears 
to be on the upswing. According to "State by State Medical Marijuana Laws," 
published in 2001, "Eight states have laws that protect patients who 
possess and grow their own medical marijuana with their doctor's approval."

In addition, three California cities directly challenged Federal law by 
deputizing local medicinal pot farmers. The discussion was opened earlier 
this year, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San 
Francisco upheld the rights of seriously ill patients by allowing them to 
accept recommendations from their doctors for marijuana.

Canada is also expected to decriminalize marijuana possession.

HR 2592, a bill that would have reclassified marijuana so that doctors 
could prescribe it, died in Congress, denying medicinal pot users the full 
blanket of legal support that their advocates want. So, more than four 
years after that first feat of activism, Beth Am Women are still at work.

They produced an informational video with accompanying teaching and study 
guides that they distribute to temples on a regional basis.

The group also sponsored another panel discussion in late October, attended 
by roughly 25 people from Beth Am and from the community at large.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager